Professionals holding procurement jobs in the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), including permanent staff to procurement and supply chain interims, have completed a huge task – overhauling the procurement process for providers of new GP IT systems, which launched this week.

The new ‘GP IT Futures framework’ marks the first significant reform to the market in more than a decade. In a statement, the DHSC said that it seeks to open competition to more providers while ensuring that further systems suited to ‘the digital age’ become available to GP practices. The statement continued that the government will implement ‘minimal technical requirements’ that enable systems to ‘talk to each other securely’ as well as being ‘continuously upgradeable.’ Under the terms of the framework, providers will be required to securely store patient’s clinical records using cloud technology, as well as complying with the DHSC’s ambition to enable every patient in England to access their GP via online or video consultation by 2023-24.

The government’s procurement framework for GP IT systems was last fully reviewed in 2007. That framework allowed practices to choose from a selection of IT systems: TPP SystmOne, EMIS Web, InPS Vision, or Microtest Evolution. Most practices have opted for either SystmOne or EMIS. But, under the new framework, practices may be compelled to switch systems if their existing provider fails to meet the new DHSC requirements. Anticipating the new framework, EMIS announced in November 2018 that its new EMIS-X system would transfer patient records to the cloud and that Patient Access would start to enable GP video consultations.

Sarah Wilkinson, CEO of NHS Digital, said that the incoming generation of IT systems for primary care would grant more patients simple access to key aspects of their medical records and would also “dramatically improve the ease with which GPs can migrate from one supplier to another.” Behind the scenes, practitioners in DHSC procurement jobs have been busy.

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